Janet McKenzie reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by painter Agnes Martin, on view at Tate Modern through October 11, 2015.
McKenzie notes that "[Martin's] works are composed of the simplest formal elements – ruled pencil lines and a limited number of forms, including grids, stripes and, occasionally, circles, triangles and squares, painted in a reduced palette on square canvases. The austere painting anticipated and helped to define minimalism... In 1989, Martin recalled: “When I first made a grid, I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees and then this grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it and then I was satisfied. I thought, ‘This is my vision.’”
Oliva Laing profiles painter Agnes Martin. An exhibition of Martin's work will be on view at Tate Modern from June 3 – October 11, 2015.
Laing begins "Art must derive from inspiration, Agnes Martin said, and yet for decades she painted what seems at first glance to be the same thing over and over again, the same core structure subject to infinitely subtle variations. A grid: a set of horizontal and vertical lines drawn meticulously with a ruler and pencil on canvases six feet high and six feet wide. They came, these restrained, reserved, exquisite paintings, as visions, for which she would wait sometimes for weeks on end, rocking in her chair, steadying herself for a glimpse of the minute image that she would paint next. 'I paint with my back to the world,' she declared, and what she wanted to catch in her rigorous nets was not material existence, the Earth and its myriad forms, but rather the abstract glories of being: joy, beauty, innocence; happiness itself."
Sultan observes: "Looking at the long black line on the left wall, I see that it has some weight and presence, but it's not quite a sculpture. It is, rather, a long narrow, irregular painting, pointed on both ends so as to push into the space around it, animating the wall. The surface isn't polished and smooth, but bumpy and somewhat misshapen. I find this imperfection very touching, and the emotion is heightened for me by the ordinariness of this object placed on the wall: it is a line, and a hand-formed object, inviting metaphor... Palermo called his hybrid works of painting in three dimensions 'objects'. They are painting amplified."
Sultan writes: "Bannard's color is unique and surprising. In the exhibition ... there are pinks and warm reds and cool greens, and all colors confound expectations with their pleasurable seriousness. After all...pink? When I think of a great painter using pink, Philip Guston comes to mind; in his works pink becomes a subversive color. Bannard's pink isn't brash and saturated, but subtle; it looks like a mixed hue. The circle sits solidly in its field, perfectly balanced, slightly above the midpoint of a rectangle slightly taller than square. The pink becomes transcendent."
Considering works by Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Dan Colen, Botticelli and others, Martin Mugar examines the differences between materiality and transcendence in painting.
Mugar writes that works such as Richter's abstract paintings "risk and do at times descend into pure materiality. This embrace of the material results in what I would call art that is 'time poor.' ... It appears that Richter wants to stop time to impress one event on the viewer to such a degree that it eliminates any consideration of what came before or after... Gone is the role of the imagination, which might evoke memory, or the role of symbols that could point to an inner structure of consciousness that shapes the present." On the other hand, Mugar continues, in paintings such as Botticelli's Birth of Venus "the goal was to get beyond [to] (transcend)... This transcendence was not achieved through an act of will but by knowing the right prayers or alchemical formulas or in the case of art to use the right proportions, colors and geometrical shapes."
Patkin writes: "The No Title Required series is one of Ryman’s largest multi panel works, continuing his investigations into the relationship between non-identical panels, and presenting a further investigation into the relationship between panels. Subtly shifting layers of high-gloss enamel white along the picture plane are framed by blue paint, that extends out and around the support. Creating bizarre conflations of perception as the viewer moves along the work, Ryman’s pieces are subtle inquiries into ideas of continuation and space, creating tacit links between works that are almost completely devoid of any mark."
David Rhodes reviews the exhibition Jo Baer at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, on view through August 25, 2013.
Rhodes writes: "This summer’s exhibition at the Museum Ludwig was originally conceived as a presentation of Baer’s minimalist works and was later expanded to cover the artist’s entire output, with an emphasis on early drawings. As a result, links and ruptures, continuities and turns in her creative path can now be traced and appreciated fully, as can the beauty and clarity of each individual work. Baer’s endeavor has always been concerned with painting––and not with fashions and movements––which has led to some historical misunderstanding of her work, righted here."
Zurier comments: "Even when I put shapes or lines in a monochrome field, I am thinking of form in the largest sense -- as how something is made. Form, for me, means dealing with the total construction of a painting, not geometry or making a picture of something. I'm very interested in how compositional formats and motifs, and even incidents in a painting can trigger perceptual responses and associations. Even a horizontal line can be read as a landscape, but it's not my intention... I often make my own paints and grounds and I'm always discovering new things. My interest in materials involves looking for the right color and how the surface affects the way light is reflected or absorbed. I use various types of raw cotton and linen canvas and pay close attention to the different colors and textures of the weave. I also sometimes use pre-primed linen. I will also grind my own oil colors and I make tempera paint by mixing pigments into animal glues. I do a lot of research and make tests. It's part craft, part chemistry, and part like cooking. But as a rule, I try to keep the materials in a painting simple."
John Yau blogs about the exhibition Geneviève Asse: Paintings at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, on view through September 9, 2013.
Yau writes that "Although Asse works in the domain of monochrome painting and geometric abstraction, she is the opposite of such objective-minded artists as Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. For all of her restraint and rigor, her paintings are intensely subjective, focusing on faint hints of light and barely legible traces of space. You don’t see Asse’s paintings; you adjust to them, as if you woke up in a dark, unfamiliar room. The faint, barely there glow hovers between dawn’s promise and nocturnal memory. Their precedents are J.W.W Turner and Giorgio Morandi. She makes Turner and, at times, even Morandi look heavy-handed."
Sultan writes: "Within these minimally painted, sensitively brushed paintings there is a sense of boundless space, of light shimmering through thin veils of color... The paintings are paradoxically both rich and hardly there. I sense great care in the making of the work, and yet there's a feeling of freedom in its brushwork, freedom that comes from practice and from close attention... One of the things I admired about this show was the variety of approaches to making a painting; Zurier explores paint and surface, with each painting having a character of its own."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.